Canada's passport is considered to be the ninth strongest in the world. The strength of a passport refers to the number of countries its holder can go to without a visa. There are currently 195 countries worldwide, and Canadian passport holders have visa-free access to 183 of them.
But the question is, can Canadians travel to Europe visa-free?
The European Union (EU) has announced a release date for its new visa waiver system, the European Travel Information Authorization System (ETIAS). Launched primarily with security in mind, it keeps tabs on those who travel from the 63 countries outside the EU and do not require a visa to enter the EU.
“To reduce procedures and wait times, as well as address the security concerns, the European Commission (EC) has come up with a solution – ETIAS,", as the site explains. Those who pose a security risk to EU member states will be denied entry after being flagged by the electronic system.
Canadian citizens are among those who will need to obtain ETIAS authorization. The system will be fully operational in November 2023, as expected.
How ETIAS works for Canadians to enter Europe
The great news is that submitting an application won't cost you a fortune. Each application costs €7 (approximately CAD $9.50). Only applicants over the age of 18 will be required to apply, as children under the age of 18 will be exempt from paying any fees.
The application will request personal information and travel documents such as a passport and the first EU country you plan to visit. Criminal records, time spent in conflict zones, and expulsion orders from European Union countries will also be inquired about.
You will be accepted if the information you provided on the application is correct and you do not pose a security risk. According to the site, the entire process will take a few minutes.
If the ETIAS flags your application as suspicious, it will be reviewed by a responsible officer for an additional four days to a maximum of two weeks.
Your ETIAS authorization will be valid for three years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.
The reasons why your ETIAS application might be rejected are detailed here.
How long can Canadians stay in Europe?
A Canadian citizen can enter Europe visa-free for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. This applies to all Schengen countries.
Canadians are exempt from obtaining a visa for the following purposes: Business, tourism, Transit, Short-term study, and Medical treatment.
Once ETIAS is implemented in November 2023, there will be no changes to the current visa policy. Canadian citizens will need an approved ETIAS visa waiver to travel to Europe from Canada.
The holder of a valid Canadian ETIAS can travel to Europe for the same period and the purposes specified above. The electronic travel authorization is valid for three years from the date of approval or until the expiration date of the passport linked to the application.
Accordingly, the holder can make multiple entries into Europe, each valid for up to 90 days. When traveling to Europe, Canadian citizens who already possess a valid ETIAS are exempt from having to reapply for it on each subsequent trip.
European countries that Canadian citizens can visit with ETIAS
When Canadian citizens obtain an approved ETIAS, they are free to travel to any countries that have joined the Schengen Agreement and do not require a passport.
All three microstates are included here: Monaco, San Marino, and Vatican City. The borders of these microstates are mainly open to the other Schengen states.
Canadians can only visit other Schengen member states with a valid ETIAS visa waiver.
Canadian citizens planning to visit countries that are applicants for Schengen membership but have not yet fulfilled all of the Area's aquis will also need an ETIAS authorization.
Countries like Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania fall into this category.
ETIAS requirements for Canadians
Canadian citizens who wish to apply for an ETIAS can do so from anywhere in the world.
As long as they meet the ETIAS requirements for non-EU citizens, Canadian passport holders can apply for this visa waiver to enter the Schengen Area.
To apply, you must have a current, valid passport from an ETIAS-eligible country. Canadians with more than one passport planning a trip to Europe must check to see if the passport they plan to use has been issued by one of the countries that qualify for the waiver.
You'll require a valid credit or debit card to cover the application fee.
An active email address is crucial because not only will updates on the application's status be sent via email, but the final decision and any appeals will be handled via email as well.
You must provide complete and accurate information in all requested areas of the ETIAS application.
Canadians can apply for an ETIAS visa online with just a valid passport and a credit card. Applicants may be asked to provide additional information and/or documentation based on their individual circumstances.
This article was written in cooperation with Gabriela Kurtz